“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob….” Psalm 114:7
Close your eyes, and join me on an idyllic Appalachian mountainside…radiant with fall colors, a crystal-clear brook, sun-dappled rhododendron, brittle leaves underfoot, rusty apples dangling within reach.
It’s easy to feel close to God in a place like this, where I’m standing right now.
Even in this picture-perfect paradise, I wonder what heaven will be like in God’s presence. In the words of “I Can Only Imagine,” will I stand or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing “hallelujah” or be able to speak at all?1
I envision being completely overwhelmed by awe, wonder, fear, and love, all wrapped up together. There will be no further thoughts of myself. They will be consumed by His all-absorbing greatness, majesty, and beauty, with His supreme power on full display.
What if we could have that kind of experience in His presence right now?
Unfortunately, we are distracted little creatures. We spend most of our days like busy ants oblivious to a giant human being standing over them. The presence of God seems remote, unreachable. He is outside our mindsets as our daily routines and pressures pull us away from dwelling with Him.
Yet a lowly monk in the 1600s, someone who prepared food and fixed sandals in a monastery near Paris, found a way to constantly enter God’s presence. His name was Brother Lawrence, and his words and habits have inspired generations since then through his complete surrender to Jesus.
Brother Lawrence, born Nicholas Herman, was a soldier in the Thirty Years’ War until a serious injury crippled him and left him in constant pain for the rest of his life. He entered the monastic life and embraced the menial jobs assigned to him with total acceptance.
“Brother Lawrence said that the worst that could happen to him was to lose that sense of God which he had enjoyed so long,” wrote his friend, Joseph de Beaufort. “Yet the goodness of God assured him He would not forsake him utterly and that He would give him strength to bear whatever evil He permitted to happen to him.” Brother Lawrence truly feared nothing.
“‘I worshipped Him the oftenest I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him,’ Brother Lawrence said. ‘I made this my business, not only at the appointed times of prayer but all the time; every hour, every minute, even in the height of my work, I drove from my mind everything that interrupted my thoughts of God.’”2
It’s remarkable that, even in the midst of monotonous tasks, Brother Lawrence pushed all discontent and distraction out of his mind. His thought life was entirely swept up in worshipping his Lord. He experienced pure joy in his Master’s care.
We know intellectually and theologically that God is always with us and will never leave us. But until we consciously acknowledge His presence with us as Brother Lawrence did—with gratitude for all He does—we can’t “feel” connected with Him. We need to practice.
Begin with a gracious humility, a lowliness before God, not demanding your own way. Continually remind yourself of God’s character, what He has done, and what He has said He will do.
Develop little habits of praise and prayer, to breed contentedness and renew your sense of God’s presence. Look for barriers that keep you from practicing God’s presence, like a hurried schedule, cellphone notifications, entertainment, personal expectations, emotional burdens from others. Then start sweeping them out of your thought life, to declutter your mind from a singular focus on God. Let every demand, problem, or routine task become a prayer for His help.
The most joyful practice, though, is looking for “God moments,” situations where He shows up in remarkable and unremarkable ways—sunshine rays breaking through clouds, an encouraging word from a friend, a flower in the crack of a sidewalk, the healing embrace of a hug, an answer to a simple prayer. Breathe a word of thanksgiving to Him when He reveals His presence in these brief encounters.
May He bless you today with a taste of His goodness and contentment. May He take you in His heavenly arms and fill you with joy as you see His banner of love waving over you. May His presence overwhelm you completely!
Holy Lord, remind us to focus on the fullness of joy in Your presence, Your attributes of goodness, the pleasures forevermore at Your right hand. Let us not give up the practice of continuing steadfastly in prayer; please let this be a lifeline between us. And even though we have never ‘seen’ You, we have seen Your hand at work in our lives; let us continue to see Your handiwork as our journey with You unfolds. Thank You for granting us a place with You in heaven, where we may see You finally, face to face, and then fall down in total worship. We praise You, finally, for all of Your wonderful promises in the words of Your Son Jesus Christ, that Your joy may remain in us and be full. In hope of the coming revelation of Your Son Jesus, Amen.
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© Copyright 2022 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1“I Can Only Imagine,” by Bart Millard, Mercy Me (https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mercyme/icanonlyimagine.html)
2The Practice of the Presence of God about Brother Lawrence is a nifty little book you can find for free at https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5657